FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This application is a divisional of co pending U.S. application Ser. No. 12/019,338 filed on Jan. 24, 2008, which relies for priority under 35 U.S.C. §119 upon Great Britain Application Serial No. GB0706814.1, filed on Apr. 5, 2007, which are incorporated herein by reference.
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates generally to a method of identifying data delivery parameters relating to delivery of data accessible from a network location via a communications service provider, and is particularly, but not exclusively, suited to identifying delivery parameters when the delivery of data is metered, such as when data are delivered to terminals connected to mobile networks.
As is well known, search engines such as those provided by Google™ and Yahoo™ use “web crawlers” to locate new or modified data in the form of web pages that are accessible via the World Wide Web. The content of these pages is analyzed, keywords are extracted from the pages, and the keywords are added to a search index, which links to a list of web pages that contain a particular word. A weight or rank for the web page can be generated on the basis of the number of times that word occurs on the web page, and stored in the index. A variety of other parameters can be factored into the web-page rank, including the number of times other search users have clicked on the link to that web page, how extensively that web page is linked to from other web pages, personal reviews and ratings of web pages or sites, or on the basis of an amount that a given web site is willing to pay for a particular ranking. Web pages can include data relating to products and services, and can thus serve as a medium for advertising.
As described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,269,361, web site promoters can control their placement in search result listings so that their listings are prominent in searches that are relevant to the content of their web site. This is achieved by means of an on-line marketplace, in which companies selling products, services, or information bid in an open auction environment for positions on a search result list generated by an Internet search engine. Since content providers must pay for each click-through referral generated through the search result lists generated by the search engine, there is an incentive to select and bid on those search keywords that are most relevant to their web site offerings. In known systems implementing this approach, content providers typically input the search keywords and bid criteria via a user interface, the user interface being operated under the control of the search facility so that data entered by the content providers can subsequently be used to rank search results on the basis of their bids.
Use of search engines to find data of interest is currently not in question because in most cases search queries are received from terminals that are fixedly connected to the Internet (either directly, or via one or several network portions), and of course the transmission of data within the Internet—on a per request basis—is free. However, with the advent of widespread deployment of radio networks such as cellular and non-cellular networks (using e.g. Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) technology, Wideband Code Division Multiplex Access (WCDMA); Code Division Multiplex Access (CDMA), Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMax)) and/or unlicensed network portions (such as Wireless LANs and Bluetooth technologies), search requests are increasingly being received from terminals connected to wireless networks. Unlike the transmission of data within fixed-line networks, the transmission of data within mobile networks is typically metered on a per transmission basis. As a result, mobile terminals are faced with hitherto unseen costs for accessing sites on the basis of search results generated by search engines, which calls into question the likely take-up of search engine offerings by users of personal mobile devices.
In order to increase the likelihood of users accessing data relating to search results it would be attractive to involve the content providers in the delivery of data.
In accordance with aspects of the present invention, there is provided method and a system according to the appended claims.
Embodiments of the invention are particularly convenient for use in arranging for delivery of content to a terminal connected to a mobile communications network.
In accordance with further aspects of the invention there is provided a distributed system for carrying out the method steps, including a user interface adapted to collect criteria to be used in determining the delivery of said content.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Further features and advantages of the invention will become apparent from the following description of preferred embodiments of the aspects of the invention, given by way of example only, which is made with reference to the accompanying drawings. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and structural and functional modifications may be made without departing from the scope and spirit of the present invention.
FIG. 1 is a schematic block diagram showing a distributed information system within which embodiments of the invention can operate;
FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram showing components of the content broker shown in FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram showing a user interface for use in collecting content and delivery criteria from the content providers shown in FIG. 1;
FIG. 4 is a schematic flow diagram showing steps associated with collecting data for use in identifying network operators in respect of which transmission of data to subscribers can be sponsored;
FIG. 5 is a schematic diagram showing fields of several records stored within the database shown in FIG. 1; and
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
FIG. 6 is a schematic block diagram showing a distributed information system comprising a service for accessing the data stored in FIG. 5.
Embodiments of the present invention are concerned with providing a means for collecting criteria relating to delivery and characteristics of data that are accessible via communications networks from content providers. Embodiments of the invention are concerned with processing the various characteristics on the basis of delivery constraints so as to estimate delivery parameters for the data. The nature of these processes is described in detail below, but first a description of the infrastructure needed to support some embodiments of the invention will be presented.
FIG. 1 shows an example of a distributed information system 1 within which some embodiments of the invention operate; the distributed system 1 comprises a plurality of content providers 6 a, 6 b, 6 c, at least some of which are arranged to store content and information, a content broker 8, and a database 20, all of which are connected to a network 12 either directly or indirectly (e.g. via the Internet, local area networks (LANs), other wide area networks (WANs), and regional networks accessed over telephone lines, such as commercial information services).
As shown in FIG. 1, each of the terminals 2, 4 is connected to a different network N1, N2, meaning that the delivery path for data accessed from the first terminal 2 involves network portions different to those associated with the delivery path for data accessed by the second terminal 4. In one arrangement it is envisaged that each of network portions N1, N2 relates to a respective service provider, each having a proprietary set of delivery parameters specifying a cost of delivery of a certain amount of data associated therewith (e.g. as a function of number of data access attempts within a given period). Examples of network portions N1, N2 include mobile networks, and in this specification, mobile networks are used to exemplify embodiments of the invention.
Mobile terminals 2, 4 are adapted to communicate with the various content providers 6 a, 6 b, 6 c via mobile network 14 and appropriate gateways WAP GW, GPRS support node (GGSN) as shown; the terminals 2, 4 can be mobile telephones or PDAs, lap top computers and the like, and the mobile network 14 can comprise licensed (such as cellular networks using e.g. Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) technology, Wideband Code Division Multiplex Access (WCDMA); Code Division Multiplex Access (CDMA), Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMax)) and/or unlicensed network portions (such as Wireless LANs and Bluetooth technologies) and/or broadcasting networks (such as Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB-H), MediaFlo, Terrestial Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting (ISDB-T), Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB)).
The mobile terminals 2, 4 can comprise browser programs adapted to locate, and access data from, web sites corresponding to the or each content provider 6 a, 6 b, 6 c. The browser programs allow users of the terminals 2, 4 to enter addresses of specific web sites, typically in the form of Uniform Resource Locators, or URLs, and are typically adapted to receive and display web and WAP pages; in the event that a given terminal 2 is only capable of processing and displaying WAP pages, translation of a web page can be performed by a device in the network or by suitable translation software running on the device 2. As is known in the art, any given web page can include links nested therein, which, when selected, can provide access to other pages or data such as plain textual information, or digitally encoded multimedia content, such as software programs, audio signals, videos graphics, etc. Accordingly selection of such links results in transmission of further data to the terminals 2, 4.
Embodiments of the invention may enable any given content provider 6 a to evaluate, and thence elect, particular service providers as being authorised to deliver content to terminals 2, 4; data relating to those service providers authorised to transport data are stored as records in the database 20 for use in evaluating delivery costs and the like in response to receipt of a request for data access from the content providers.
In one arrangement the content broker 8 is preferably embodied as a web server, and provides an interface to the database 20 via which the content providers 6 a, 6 b, 6 c can submit criteria controlling access to their content and information, in particular when they are referenced in response to a search request received from one of the terminals 2, 4. As can be seen from FIG. 2, the content broker 8 comprises standard operating system, storage, Input/Output, processor and memory components, and bespoke software components in the form of authentication software component 201, Graphical User Interface (GUI) software component 203, delivery evaluation software component 205 and account updating software component 207.
The authentication software component 201 may comprise a firewall, not shown, which receives and authenticates requests from the content providers 6 a, 6 b, 6 c, typically from a web browser, and is arranged to protect the GUI software component 203 and information stored in the database 20 from unauthorised access. Additional security may be provided via enhancements to the standard communications protocols such as Secure Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTPS) or the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).
The GUI software component 203 is arranged to invoke and display a user interface 300 of the form shown in FIG. 3, which comprises a plurality of editable regions 301, 303, 307, 311, and is configured to receive data input by or on behalf of an authorised content provider 6 a. The GUI software component 203 is triggered by the authentication software component 201 upon successful authentication of the requesting content provider 6 a, 6 b, 6 c. With reference to FIGS. 3 and 4, once the requesting content provider 6 a has been authenticated (step S4.1), the user interface 300 is sent (e.g. in the form of a web page) and displayed to the content provider 6 a, with the identity of the content provider being displayed in region 305 (step S4.7). The editable region 30 1 is for data specifying the content that is accessible from the content provider's network location(s), together with the corresponding network location(s) (specified, e.g. by means of a Universal Resource Indicator (URI)). In addition, region 301 includes a field for specifying the amount of data that is accessible from the or each network location; the data amount is preferably specified in number of Bytes, and can be verified by the content broker 8 during post-processing of the entered data (e.g. when checking the URI, as described below).
Editable region 303 is for data specifying the criteria which, when entered by a user as part of a request for data access (e.g. a search request for documents or a search request for media data such as video, music and the like), will result in the content provider being included in a list of results provided to the user. The criteria thus include keywords, artists, film names etc., as appropriate to the content identified in region 301, together with an amount of resource (such as money) that the content provider is willing to bid in order to influence their position in the list of results. As described in detail below, these criteria are then stored in the database 20, and can be used when performing processes such as responding to search requests.
As is known in the art, the list of results can comprise a list of URLs: each URL on the list corresponds to a network location associated with a given content provider and in embodiments of the invention the content provider can sponsor all or part of the delivery of their content to the user, together with the conditions under which such sponsorship is to be provided are entered in region 307
. Examples of such conditions include (but are not limited to):
- Particular access technologies for delivery (e.g. SMS, W AP, Internet, WLAN, 20, 30—delivery sponsored or not);
- Roaming, as a function of network operator (delivery sponsored or not);
- Delivery plans to be supported, as a function of network operator;
- Specified time periods for sponsored delivery;
- Specified number of access requests (per user);
- Specified amount of delivery sponsorship (per user and/or per access request)
- Specified type of content from network location to be sponsored;
- Specified budget to be used for sponsoring delivery (in total and/or per delivery event);
- Number of click-through links from which content can be provided and in respect of which delivery will be sponsored.
The content provider 6 a can also select, from a list of available network operators, those operators in relation to whom the sponsorship conditions apply, thereby effectively filtering out certain users from sponsorship of content delivery. In one arrangement the operators can be selected from a drop-down list of all available operators by means of buttons 311, the drop-down list being invoked by clicking on region 309; though not shown in the Figure, various operator-specific parameters can be displayed to the user to help with the selection process (e.g. access technologies for data delivery, location available etc., this having been gathered from the various operators and stored in the database 20 so as to be accessible to the content broker 8 at steps S4.3 and S4.5). In another arrangement, the criteria entered in region 307 can be transmitted to the content provider 8 and used by the GUI software component 203 to pre-filter available operators on the basis of the delivery access technologies offered thereby, so as to ensure that the operators presented to the user in the drop down list match the specified delivery options. Turning back to FIG. 1, it will be appreciated that there may be two or more different network operators, as represented by network portions N1, N2.
As described above the content provider 6 a
specifies a budget for sponsoring delivery of content, and this is used by the content broker 8
in order to provide an evaluation of the various network operators. Of particular interest to the content provider 6 a
is the cost of sponsoring content provision—e.g. the most and least expensive operators in relation to delivery of any given content item(s). Each network operator has one or more delivery plans associated therewith, which for example apply in respect of different subscribers and typically vary as a function of subscription; for example, in respect of an exemplary network operator, one plan, A, might specify 1
/Mbyte, whilst another plan, B, might specify 0.25
Accordingly and referring back to FIG. 2, responsive to submission of data from the content provider 6 a (via selection of button 313, the result of which is encapsulation and transmission of the data entered in regions 301, 303, 307 and 311, as indicated by step S4.9 in FIG. 4), the delivery evaluation software component 205 is arranged to process the various delivery plans in respect of the content specified in editable region 301 so as to identify the number of deliveries that can be supported by the budget for each of the operators.
In detail, the delivery evaluation software component 205 retrieves data indicative of the URL(s) entered in region 301 and accesses the terminal corresponding to the or each URL, as indicated in step S4.11 so as to identify or verify the amount of data accessible from the URL (this having been optionally entered by the content provider 6 a; access in respect of only one URL is shown for clarity). Such identification or verification can involve downloading the content to the content broker 8 or reviewing data indicative of the file size stored on the corresponding web server. In either case, data indicative of the amount of data are returned to the delivery evaluation software component 205 at step S4.13 (it will be appreciated that steps S4.11 and S4.13 are not essential to embodiments the invention, since they merely serve for verification purposes).
Once the amount of data that would be transmitted to a user in response to selection of a link corresponding to the URL has been established, the delivery evaluation software component 205
evaluates the number of delivery events that can be supported for the budget specified in region 307
for each operator selected by the content provider in region 311
, on the basis of the operator data retrieved from the database 20
at step S4
. One exemplary evaluation method will now be explained with reference to the two data plans described above (A: 1
/Mbyte and B: 0.25
1 Mbyte), and for the case where the budget specified is 100
. Considering firstly plan A, assuming the amount of data available from the URL is 1.5 Mbyte, the delivery evaluation software component 205
identifies that the delivery cost for each individual data access attempt is 1.5
; accordingly the number of deliveries that can be sponsored is approximately 66. Considering next plan B, the delivery cost for each individual data access attempt is determined to be 0.38£; accordingly for a budget of 100£, the number of sponsorable deliveries is approximately 264.
Having evaluated the number of sponsorable deliveries for each operator (step S4.15), the delivery evaluation software component 205 generates output indicative of the number of delivery events per operator, and transmits this to the content provider (step S4.17); an example of the output is shown in Table 1:
|| 66, 264
Whilst the foregoing example assumes that the content provider 6 a is sponsoring all (n %, where n=100%) of the delivery costs for individual data access requests, the content provider 6 a can alternatively sponsor a proportion of the delivery costs (n %, where n<100% and is specified by the content provider via the user interface 300); in either case the delivery evaluation software component 205 is arranged to evaluate the number of deliveries supported by the budget on the basis of the percentage n according to the evaluation process described above.
The foregoing assumes selection of a given link (e.g. in search results) to result in a request for data access from a single URL; however, and as described above, the URL might contain one or more click-through links. Accordingly the delivery evaluation software component 205 can estimate the number of web pages that are likely to be accessed via click-through links, and this estimate can be combined with the size of data accessible from each respective click-through link so as to determine the amount of data that might be accessed downloaded by a given subscriber. In one arrangement the characteristics are combined so as to generate an overall download requirement, as follows:
Download Size of directly accessible web page+No. inter-web page click-through links*P1*Average size of inter-web page click-through links+No. external web page click-through links*P2*Average size of external web page click-through links
P1 and P2 are probability values indicative of the likelihood of users accessing the click-through links. Many content providers maintain statistics indicative of access to internal and external links, so this information can be provided by the content providers at the time of submitting the storage and/or transmission criteria. Alternatively the delivery evaluation software component 205 can apply estimates for the respective probabilities, in the form of discrete values (such as, if there are eight inter-web click through links (so eight layers of clicks), the probability of accessing level one click is 75%, the probability of accessing level two click is 50%, the probability of accessing level three click is 30%; the probability of accessing level four click is 25%; the probability of accessing level five click is 20% etc.) or in the form of a continuous function. Once the magnitude of the download has been established, this can be used to evaluate the number of individual data access requests that can be supported by the content provider's budget.
Returning to FIG. 4, the data indicative of the number of data access deliveries that will be supported by the budget specified in region 303 can be presented to the content provider 6 a within a web page (not shown). The web page can additionally include a “Confirm” button, which, when pressed, causes the data received at and evaluated by the content broker 8 to be stored in the database 20 for use in relation to subsequent data access requests. In addition the web page can include a “Modify Details” button, which, when selected, causes the user interface 300, complete with the data previously entered by the content provider 6 a, to be retransmitted thereto. In addition, the web page can include a “Start Again” button, which, when selected, causes the content provider to return to step S4.7. Selection of any of these buttons is shown schematically by step S4.17 in FIG. 4.
- Applications of Some Embodiments of the Invention
Assuming the content provider 6 a to select the “Confirm” button at some stage, this causes the account updating software component 407 to store the data as a record R in the database 20 (or locally in the content broker 8, or in a distributed storage system (not shown)), the record being for use in serving subsequent requests for data access from terminals such as terminals 2, 4 shown in FIG. 1. FIG. 5 shows as example of three records Ra, Rb, Rc, one corresponding to each of the content providers 6 a, 6 b, 6 c.
In the foregoing embodiments a content provider is described as sponsoring a URL with little context in relation to the conditions in which the sponsorship applies; in preferred applications of embodiments of the invention the sponsorship applies in relation to access requests that are received via a bespoke service 10 such as that shown in FIG. 6.
One example of a suitable service 10 is a portal arranged to filter the records Ra, Rb, Rc so as to identify those content providers 6 a, 6 b, 6 c whose data are free to access by the terminals 2, 4. As described above and shown in FIG. 5, each content provider 6 a, 6 b, 6 c selects (an) operators in respect of which delivery of data to terminals is to be sponsored by the content provider, resulting in a record Ra, Rb, Rc being populated in the database 20; the records Ra, Rb, Rc contain, inter alia, data indicative of the selected operator(s), and this can be used to populate a “free to access” list. In one arrangement the list could be compiled in response to a request received from a terminal 2, 4: the portal 10 could extract the identity of the operator serving the requesting terminal 2 and use this to filter the records Ra, Rb, Rc. The output of this process would therefore be a list of URLs that are free for that particular subscriber to access, given their particular network operator. A suitable name for such a portal could be “free mobile links. com” and the portal could be embodied as a conventional web server with an interface configured to facilitate database queries.
Alternatively service 10 could be a search engine, which is arranged to identify those content providers 6 a, 6 b, 6 c that are registered as having content corresponding to keywords submitted by the terminal as part of a search request. In addition to listing the operator(s) via which access to content is free to terminals 2, 4, the records Ra, Rb, Rc can optionally include a further field (not shown), which specifies an amount of resource that the content provider is willing to allocate to offset delivery of their content via non-listed operators. The search engine could respond to search requests by means of a search results list of content providers having content relevant to the search query; items on the results list are conveniently categorised as “free” or “subsidised”, where “free” corresponds to content providers listing the operator from which the request was received in the record Ra, Rb, Rc and “subsidised” corresponds to content providers not listing the operator from which the request was received in the record Ra, Rb, Rc, but in respect of which an amount of resource has been specified in the further field (for use in subsidising access to their content).
- ADDITIONAL DETAILS AND MODIFICATIONS
As a yet further example, service 10 could be a web site comprising embedded links to content providers 6 a, 6 b, 6 c; the links could be displayed so as to identify content providers whose content is free to access differently to content providers whose content is partly or non-subsidised in dependence on the operator from which the request was received and the data stored in the database 20 as described above.
It will be appreciated that steps S4.3 and S4.5 are optional, in so far as the operator data can be cached in the content broker 8 for use in future access requests from other content providers.
Whilst in the above embodiments it is envisaged that sponsorship relates to delivery of data to a mobile terminal, the search results could alternatively be transmitted to a search results service. Accordingly the sponsorship could additionally or alternatively relate to delivery of data within a fixed network, or to provision of access to Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) services for certain selected search results only.
Whilst it is preferably that the network location and key words are related, any given content provider can specify a link to a network location that is unrelated to the keywords (e.g. a content provider providing information in relation to the key words “hotels London” can specify links to network locations unrelated to these keywords).
By way of clarification, the term “sponsored access” is to be understood as including (but not limited to), wholly or in part, the costs of associated with accessing data from the network location associated with the content provider.
The above embodiments are to be understood as illustrative examples of the invention. Further embodiments of the invention are envisaged. It is to be understood that any feature described in relation to anyone embodiment may be used alone, or in combination with other features described, and may also be used in combination with one or more features of any other of the embodiments, or any combination of any other of the embodiments. Furthermore, equivalents and modifications not described above may also be employed without departing from the scope of the invention, which is defined in the accompanying claims.